The Tea Party movement gave the Republican Party an energy boost and some genuine grassroots support.
But it did a lot more for the Democratic Party.
With Republicans taking complete control of the US House and most of the states, the only thing that kept the 2010 midterms from being worse for Democrats than the 1994 "Republican Revolution" was the GOP failure to take the Senate.
And for that the Democrats have the Tea Party movement to thank.
As of Thursday morning, Republican had secured forty-seven US Senate seats.
The Alaska count looks at this point as if it will produce a win for Senator Lisa Murkowski, whose write-in votes substantially exceed those cast for the man who beat her in the state’s Republican primary, Joe Miller. Murkowski, who pursued her re-election campaign without national party support, would likely sit as a Republican or a Republican-leaning independent. Were Miller to win, he would sit as a Republican—albeit grudgingly, as he does not believe in maintaining an elected Senate.
That puts the GOP two seats short of a tied Senate, three seats short of a clear majority.
Could the Republicans have gotten to 51?
In Colorado, Republican leaders in Washington and nationally wanted former Colorado Governor Jane Norton, a popular mainstream conservative who polls suggested was a likely November winner. Norton lost to Tea Party favorite Ken Buck.
Now Buck has been beaten by Democratic Senator Michael Bennet. Count Colorado as an opportunity missed for the GOP — an opportunity missed because the Tea Party picked a weak November contender in a state that, by all indications, a stronger Republican could have won.
In Delaware, Republican leaders in Washington and locally wanted moderate Congressman Mike Castle to be their Senate candidate. Castle had never lost an election; the woman who beat him in the primary, Tea Party favorite Christine O’Donnell, had never won an election.
Even Democrats agree that Castle would have won the Delaware seat. O’Donnell continued her losing streak. With Castle as the candidate, Delaware would have given the Republicans seat 50.
In Nevada, Republican leaders in Washington and locally had several solid contenders to take on Senate majority leader Harry Reid, a very vulnerable Democrat. The primary winner was Tea Party favorite Sharon Angle, whom Nevada political observers described as "the only Republican who could lose to Harry Reid."
Angle lost. Nevada would have given the Republicans seat 51.
Democrats will be sending a lot of condolence cards today.
They might want to address one thank-you card to the Tea Party movement.
It kept the Democrats in control of the Senate and averted a narrative that would have said 2010 was a better year for Republicans than 1994.